What is the third third?

We use the phrase “third third” to talk about the third third of life. Technically, in the United States right now the average person enters the third third of life at 51.9 years, given the average lifespan of 78.6 years. But we’re not concerned about a precise timeline for third third life. Rather, when we talk about the third third, we’re thinking more generally of the latter season of life, the time when most people have finished raising children, growing their careers, and doing the things that are common in early life and midlife.

We inherited the phrase “third third” from the work of Walter C. Wright, Jr., a former executive director of the De Pree Center. Near the end of time at the center, Walt published a book called The Third Third of Life: Preparing for Your Future. With a variety of stories and wise reflections, Walt invites his readers to think in fresh ways about the third third of life. We have found Walt’s phrasing to be helpful and he graciously allowed us to keep on using it.

Who is working on your Third Third Initiative?

A little over a year ago, we received some seed funding from a donor couple who would love to help people flourish in the third third of life. Since that time, we have begun work on the initiative.

Mark Roberts, the executive director of the De Pree Center, is heading up this project. Mark’s academic expertise is in biblical studies, though he brings a wide range of life experience to his work. He is a pastor, author, retreat director, and non-profit leader. These days, Mark is best known as the primary author of Life for Leaders, the daily devotional published by the De Pree Center. Since the beginning of the third third initiative, Mark has been doing extensive research in relevant fields, including psychology, sociology, gerontology, brain science, theology, and, of course, biblical studies.

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